Edith E. Helen Winter-Wood Baird

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From - The Chess Bouquet: Or, The Book of the British Composers of Chess Problems, with Portraits  by Frederick Richard Gittins; Published in 1897 by Harvard University



Mrs. W. J. Baird

     It is quite in accordance with the fitness of things that, in an age in which ladies paint some of our finest pictures, write some of our most notable books, and carry off the highest honours in our Universities, a lady should hold an honoured place in the group of chess problem composers whose names are familiar wherever the most intellectual of games is studied. Since the year 1888, Mrs. W. J. Baird's beautiful compositions have been well known. It was in that year that she carried off the third prize in the Sheffield Independent two-move tourney, the first of many awards which have fallen to her as a problem composer. Since then she has gone on from triumph to triumph, until, at last, by universal consent, the title of the QUEEN OF CHESS was spontaneously conferred upon her, - a distinction which, we trust, she will long be spared to wear.
     Mrs. W. J. Baird was born in 1859, and, as her portrait shows, is a lady of considerable personal attractions. The only surviving daughter of T. Winter-Wood, the poet, of "Hareston," Plymouth, she is the lineal descendant of the Woods who possessed the Manor of Hareston since the reign of Edward III. The following particulars of the family, obtained from the College of Arms and given in Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, of January, 1889, will be read with interest: -
     "The family Wood resided on their estate, at Hareston, in the Parish of Brixton, Devonshire, from the eighth year of Edward III.  There were nineteen descendants of the Woods, from father to son, when John Wood left an only daughter, who married John Winter, a descendant of Sir William Winter, who commanded the "Vanguard" during the conflicts with the Spanish Armada. The present representative of the family, Thomas Winter-Wood, retook the name Wood by royal letters patent, dated November, 1850."
     And here we may say that Mr. Winter-Wood is not only a poet whose name is a household word in the West Country, but an enthusiastic and accomplished chess-player. Mrs. Baird's mother, Mrs. Winter-Wood, daughter of the late Edward Sole, solicitor, and grand-daughter of Lieutenant John Sole, R.N., was also at one time an ardent chess-player, and although she now plays seldom, still takes the utmost interest in the game and all that concerns it. When it is added that Mrs. Baird's daughter Lilian (to whom we shall hereafter refer specially), although only thirteen, has also achieved wonderful things in the cult of Caissa, we have shown three successive generations of the same family distinguished at chess. Mrs. Baird's brothers, E.J Winter-Wood and Carslake W. Wood, are also well-known composers, and have been the heroes of many a stout fight over the checkered board.
     Coming from such a home , it is not to be wondered that Mrs. Baird began to play chess at an early age. The moves came to her, as she says, by a kind of instinct before she was out of her first decade. She did not, however, commence composing problems until some years after er marriage., which took place in 1880, to Deputy Inspector=General W. J. Baird, M.D., R,N., whose distinguished services have been mentioned in dispatches and rewarded with four medals and two clasps. Eight years later she composed her first problem. and commenced a wonderful series of successes, having gained eleven first, nine second, and six third prizes, and been honourably mentioned nine times. Since 1988 she has composed over 750 problems, which have appeared in one or another chess columns (many in several), and of which not one per cent, have been found to contain a flaw - a remarkable record; while, by the unanimous consent of all the best judges, their elegance and freshness have been as notable as their purity. And, while referring to the soundness of her work, we may venture to re-tell a capital story respecting the problem which she contributed to the first installment of Mr. Tinsley's column in the weekly edition of  The Times. A day or two after it appeared, the manager of a well-known chess periodical wrote to Mr. Tinsley saying that he was "sorry to find that the first chestnut was 'cooked' by Kt to R8." Mr. Tinsley immediately wrote back, "Dear sir, - awful! dreadful!! frightful!!! For Heaven's sake don't say anything about it," and his correspondent immediately replied that the secret was safe with him, with much more in the same vein. Mr. Tinsley then, with an artful assumption of frankness and sincerity, replied that perhaps, after all, it would be best to make a clean breast of it, and added, "I hope you will also put this in your magazine, as it will sell the magazine and its editor!  To that latter no reply came, for the simple reason that no answer was possible, further investigation discovering that Mr.s Baird;s problem was a beauty and perfectly sound. Mr. Tinsley's correspondent does not the story.
     Perhaps the greatest success was achieved in The Hackney Mercury three-mover tournament of 1893, the limit being six pieces. Among those with whom she had to contend  were such strong composers as Mr. B. G. Laws, Mr. James Stuart, Mr. H. Hosey Davis, Mr. P.H.Williams, Mr. James Rayner, Mr. J. Neild, Mr. H.F.L. Meyer, Mr. T. Guest, Mr. A. Bolus, and Mr. V. Wahltuch, England; Mr. R.G. Thompson, Scotland; Mr. R. H. Seymour and Mr. C.H. Latting, United States; Mr. W. Fermie, Amsterdam; the Rev. J. Jespersen, Denmark; Mr. O. Brenander, Finland; and Mr. A.P. Silvera, Jamaica. Mrs. Baird won first prize in the tourney, and as Mr. J.D. Seguin, of the New Orleans Times Democrat, said: "The fact that the tourney assumed almost an international character rendered the triumph of the distinguished lady victor as noteworthy as it was creditable."
     Another remarkable feat was that of winning the Sussex County Chess silver medal three years in succession.  A testimony to the estimation in which Mrs. Baird is held in the problem-composing world is to be found in the fact that she has often been asked to act as judge in a tourney. She has, however, only once accepted such an invitation, owing to the great pressure upon her time. As a composer, however, she stands supreme. She has distinguished
herself in every style of problem, including "self-mates," for which she has taken prizes, a feat we believe, no other lady has achieved. Her portrait has appeared in over twenty different papers. She is, of course, also good at solving, and quite recently tied with Mr. F.R. Adcock for first prize Brighton Society Solution Tourney.
    Mrs. Baird, however, is something more even than the Queen of Chess-problem composers. She is, for example, an enthusiastic and skillful archer, and living as she does in Brighton, has for some years been a prominent member of the Furze Hill Archery Club, of which she is a member of the committee and in which she has, for two tears in succession, taken the medal for the highest aggregate score of the season. She also paints and illuminates charmingly, and has a pretty inherited talent for writing verse. Her book of illuminations, in fact, is described as, "so chaste and delicate in design as to recall the ancient illuminated book which are treasured in museums and art galleries."  In politics she is a staunch Liberal, while the modern movement against all cruelty to animals - whether inflicted under the name of sport or in the interest of science - finds in her one of it's most ardent champions. Besides the [pleasure] derived from chess, she is also a great believer in girls making themselves independent of marriage, from a monetary point of view, by having a definite occupation. When it is added that she never allows chess, painting or any other favourite pursuit to occupy her time until all the domestic matters of the home have been seen to, we have said sufficient to show how finely-rounded and complete a life this brilliantly clever woman leads. It is only left to add that her manner is kind and charming, and that she is thoughtfulness and considerateness itself to all her friends. She is, moreover, the most loving of mothers, and have been heard to declare that if anything were to happen to "Lily," she would never compose another chess problem. Not only for Miss. Baird's sake, then, but also for Mrs. Baird's as well as for our own love of the Royal Game, we will wish a long life to the little daughter of the Queen of Chess!